In December, we hear a lot about Christmas. Retail stores are open extended hours starting the evening of Thanksgiving Day, and commercialism shows up everywhere. I find it refreshing to explore the long standing Christmas traditions from centuries ago. Many are still withstanding with new and modern twists. While every family celebrates different Christmas traditions, new or old, it is fascinating to find out what the the holiday used to be, in America and around the world, and then look at the new, modern Christmas traditions now.
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👼 The Origin of Christmas
The Definition of Christmas
According to the Encyclopedia Britanica, the literal meaning of Christmas is “Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term Yule may have derived from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The German word Weihnachten denotes “hallowed night.” Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role.”
Christmas Traditions of Yesteryear
In America, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth however, as far back as the 1600’s, Christmas was frowned upon. As a matter of fact, the Massachusetts colonists would criminalize people who observed the day. No traditions were in place and it was a regular work day.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that celebrating Christmas became more common. It was at this time that people were caught purchasing gifts for young children and the realization of the economic importance began to emerge. Santa Claus, also known as St. Nicholas, materialized in the late 1800s. The red suit and white beard evolved, and he is shown as the jolly dispenser of gifts with a sleigh and reindeer, much like he is today. Fresh Christmas trees were brought into homes and families decorated them with lit candles (yikes!) to remind the kids they had many things to be thankful for. Additionally, the printed Christmas cards began to be mass produced to encourage use of the newly formed postal system.
In recent years, it seems that Christmas has become overly commercialized and the true meaning of Christmas has been lost. However, the holiday and the religious element remain important to most people; nativity scenes are found in many homes and remain a symbol of reason why we celebrate Christmas.
🌍 Christmas Across the World
Christmas traditions in America are very similar across the nation. Let’s explore how a few other countries celebrate Christmas.
In Germany, Christmas, also known as St Nicklaus Day involves shoes. Kids leave their shoes outside the front door, and Saint Nicholas travels by donkey in the middle of the night on December 6th. He leaves coins, oranges, toys and chocolate in their shoes. However, if the shoes are left empty, rumor has it, you may want to work on being nicer next year. Saint Nicholas also goes to schools and homes to visit the kids. He asks the kids to recite a poem or draw a picture and then he gives them a sweet treat.
This country’s fun and crazy tradition is on Christmas eve. In Caracas, the residents go to church early in the morning on December 24th. However, rather than hopping in their cars to get to church, they all travel by roller skates. The city closes down the roads to keep everyone safe traveling to and from the service. When church is over, the residents head home to feast on tamales.
Christmas in Japan still is not highly celebrated, nor do they have major traditions surrounding the holiday. Smaller areas of the country may display lights and exchange light gifts. However, in recent years a new craze is appearing. Kentucky Fried Chicken is starting to advertise that on Christmas Day they will offer fried chicken and roasted birds in Holiday decorated buckets. Although this is not what we are used to here in America, it is a fun spin on the holiday.
🦅 Christmas Traditions in America
American traditions are plentiful, however there are a few that are common in most households.
The Christmas Stocking
You do not have to look far to see that Americans celebrate Christmas with stockings hung by the fireplace. This legend says that St Nicholas uses the chimney to drop down bags of gold for families too poor to pay for the dowry for their daughters. The tradition of stockings by the chimney has remained for generations. Santa Claus still fills the stockings on Christmas Eve, but instead of gold, he fills them with toys, candy and other small gifts. Click the link for fun stocking stuffer ideas.
One might think that with technology today, email and Facebook, that the traditional Christmas card has gone to the way side. However, Americans will mail over 16 billion cards, packages, and presents around the world every year in December. Ordering cards can be done online and include pictures to recap the families year. Or handwritten cards with a nice note (click link to find unique messages for your cards) add a personal touch to this yearly tradition.
Mistletoe hanging from the ceiling or door frame is another tradition that you will see in homes or at parties. This ancient practice that allows Public Displays of Affection, says that when standing underneath the mistletoe with your significant other, you should/can kiss. The story goes that with every kiss a berry is picked off of the mistletoe until they are all gone. These days, most mistletoe is not real, so the berries do not get picked but the kissing part remains.
Seasonal traditions each year include fun entertainment like watching the Nutcracker ballet, Christmas carols, Movies (click link to find out the Best Movies of the Holidays) such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Charlie Brown Christmas are rented on Netflix and Amazon.
🎄Starting your own Christmas Traditions
If you and your family are looking for ideas of holiday traditions to start, here are a handful that are easy and inexpensive.
Help the family remember what the season is about, Giving, by filling a shoe box with toiletries for the less fortunate. You can then deliver them to a local homeless shelter.
An easy and free tradition is to pick a day every year and decorate the house on that day in December. Be sure to hang the lights, put up the tree and create decorations for indoors and outdoors. Click the link for DIY crafts that are inexpensive and fun for the entire family.
Finally, making a gingerbread house with the entire family or on a date (click the link for more date ideas) is creative and fun. You can make these from scratch, but it is a lot of work for you tends to take the fun out of it. I recommend buying the pre-made kits which has everything you need.
🏘️ Tis’ the Season
Whether your traditions include a Christmas tree and lights or shoes outside the front door, making memories and being grateful for everyone you have in your life is the true meaning of the season. The birth of Jesus Christ and everything he stands for is a wonderful tradition for your family to remember.
If you are looking for a home to make your own to start holiday traditions in, we can help you. Contact C4 Elite Real Estate Team today.